Big 12: Ricky Williams

Today, the National Football Foundation announced the names on the 2014 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Of the 75 players and six coaches, nine come from current Big 12 programs. The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame class will be announced in May and will be inducted at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner in December.

Here are the seven players from Big 12 programs on the ballot:

Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma, Linebacker: Two-time consensus first-team All-America pick (1985-86). Set school record for tackles in a game (22) and named Butkus Award winner in 1985 and ’86. Led Sooners to three consecutive Orange Bowls and 1985 national championship.

Troy Davis, Iowa State, Tailback: Two-time consensus first-team All-American and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist. First player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in two seasons. Big 12 Player of the Year in 1996 holds nearly every rushing record at Iowa State.

Randy Hughes, Oklahoma, Defensive Back: 1974 first-team All-American and member of 1974 national championship team and three Big Eight championship teams. Finished fourth on OU’s career interceptions list (14). NFF National Scholar-Athlete in 1974.

Bob McKay, Texas, Offensive Tackle: 1969 consensus first-team All-American helped the Longhorns to national championship and unbeaten season at Cotton Bowl in senior season. Member of two SWC championship teams and 1969 all-conference selection.

Zach Thomas, Texas Tech, Linebacker: Two-time first-team All-American, earning unanimous honors in 1995. Two-time consensus SWC Defensive Player of the Year (1993, '94) who led the Red Raiders to the 1994 SWC title. Ranks fifth all time at Tech with 390 career tackles.

LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, Tailback: Unanimous first-team All-American in 2000 and Doak Walker Award winner in 2000. WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1999 led TCU to consecutive co-WAC title. Holds 15 school records and is TCU’s all-time leading rusher.

Ricky Williams, Texas, Running Back: Two-time unanimous first-team All-American and 1998 Heisman Trophy winner. Finished his career as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and won back-to-back NCAA rushing titles. Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 1998 left Texas with 46 school records.

Here are the two coaches:

Jim Carlen, West Virginia (1966-69), Texas Tech (1970-74), South Carolina (1975-81): Led teams to eight bowl games and 13 winning seasons in 16 years as a head coach. National Coach of the Year in 1973. Three-time Southwest Conference Coach of the Year. Coached Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers at South Carolina.

Pete Cawthon Sr., Texas Tech (1930-40): Led Tech to four Border Conference titles in 11 seasons at the helm. Led 1938 team to a 10-0 regular season and the school’s first-ever Cotton Bowl appearance. Boasts the highest win percentage (69.3) among Tech coaches with terms of three years or more.

Take Two: Biggest Rushmore gripe?

February, 25, 2014
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It’s Take Two Tuesday, where we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Which player has the biggest gripe about being left off our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

Take 1: Jake Trotter

The player with the biggest gripe is Texas running back Ricky Williams.

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Who has the biggest gripe for being left off the Big 12 Mount Rushmore?

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Plenty of people have taken up his cause and filled up my Twitter timeline and email inbox, asking why the 1998 Heisman winner who also broke the FBS career rushing record was omitted.

My reply: Who then would you take off?

Nobody would argue that Vince Young doesn’t belong after his magical season that put Texas over the national championship hump for the first time in 35 years. Oklahoma’s dominance of the conference under Bob Stoops warranted the Sooners at least one spot on Rushmore. So if Adrian Peterson came off, he’d have to be replaced by some other Sooner.

Ndamukong Suh is the only defensive player, and while the Big 12 has been an offensive conference, the Rushmore wouldn’t feel legitimate without at least one defender. What about Williams over Robert Griffin III? Well, no player has had a bigger impact on his school -- or the entire Big 12 -- than RG III, who with his coach transformed Baylor from the laughingstock of the league to one of its premier programs.

But if Rushmores included five spots, Williams would have been on mine, and here’s why: by coming back to school, winning the Heisman and leading Texas to a 9-3 record (a year after the Longhorns went 4-8), he expedited Mack Brown’s rebuilding project in Austin. Two years later, the Longhorns would go on to win 10 or more games in nine consecutive seasons, culminating with the national title.

Without the rapid turnaround in ’98, who knows if the national title happens in ’05? Williams’ Heisman season gave Brown the credibility to recruit the best talent in the country. And that’s why Williams has a gripe.

Take 2: Brandon Chatmon

Big 12 folklore is full of players who are worthy of their place on the conference’s Mount Rushmore and Ricky Williams has a stronger case than most. Yet former Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon was the biggest snub.

Has he been the best receiver in Big 12 history? No, Michael Crabtree will have some say in that. Is he the most productive player left off the original foursome? No. Did he hoist the Heisman Trophy? Not even close.

But he’s the biggest snub because he fits the criteria to land on our Big 12 Mount Rushmore. OSU’s first Big 12 championship in 2011 was built upon his shoulders, as the Cowboys went 23-3 in his final two seasons. He won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards as the nation’s top receiver with 232 receptions for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns combined in 2010 and 2011. And he had at least 100 receiving yards in every game he played in 2010, a 12-game streak that is the best in the FBS since 2004, with only BYU’s Austin Collie (11 games in 2008) joining Blackmon in double digits.

So, while Blackmon isn’t a name that immediately comes to mind, he helped take a football program to new heights, dominated opponents with his individual brilliance and had the ability to take over games from the receiver position in a way that has been rarely seen since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.

Lunch links: Stoops clarifies comments (again)

July, 29, 2013
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Hey, there's a reason Zach and AC stayed away from parties at Valley.
We're in the middle of counting down the top 10 players in the history of the Big 12. I'm sure you'll all agree with my selections.

See more on my criteria here.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 2: Ricky Williams, RB, Texas (1995-98)

Why he's on the list: Every season Ricky Williams was on the field, he made a huge impact. He arrived in Austin and started 12 games as a true freshman, winning freshman of the year in something called the Southwest Conference. The best was yet to come. By the end of his career in 1998, he had captured the NCAA record for career rushing yards, with 6,279. (Wisconsin's Ron Dayne broke it the next season.) Williams broke Tony Dorsett's record with a memorable touchdown run in an upset win over Texas A&M. He was also the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, with 72 and had 11 200-yard games over his four-year career. He was the first player to ever win the Doak Walker Award twice as the nation's best running back, but his career peaked with an absurd 2,327 yards in 1998, averaging six yards a carry on his 391 touches. Along the way, he helped snap Nebraska's 47-game home winning streak, and easily won the Heisman Trophy. Williams earned 714 first-place votes. His closest competition, Kansas State QB Michael Bishop, received 41. Williams also won the Camp Award, the Maxwell Award and was the AP's Player of the Year. He earned All-Big 12 first team honors three times, and a status as one of the greatest Longhorns ever. His statue was unveiled in April 2012 and will always have a place outside DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The rest of the list:
Thanks for all the e-mails this week, folks. Next week is game week. Get excited. Enjoy your last college football-free Saturday for quite some time.

Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

On to your emails!

Velden Linn in Columbus, Ohio, wrote: Ubbs, I'm wondering if all the administrations in the Big 12 are as united as they want us all to believe? Bob Bowlsby often talks about how well everyone is getting along. And we all saw the comments coming out of the Big 12 media days where coaches were praising each other and touting how cohesive this group of 10 schools is. Is it all an act to divert our attention? Or can fans of the Big 12 really expect a perception change of this once-endangered conference? Go EERS!! Thanks man.

David Ubben: Yeah, I buy it. For one, everybody in this league did their due diligence and explored their options in leagues across the country these past two summers. The teams who wanted to be in the Big 12 came back. It's not some elaborate ruse.

Additionally, let's refresh on what the grant of rights means, which makes any team leaving the league a near impossibility. Right now, a six-year grant-of-rights agreement has been executed and signed. As part of a new media deal with ESPN/ABC, the Big 12 would need to extend that to 13 years. As I understand it, it's been agreed to, but not signed yet as the details of the TV deal get nailed down and all 10 schools agree.

Now, for the grant of rights:

Why did the SEC want Texas A&M and Missouri? Both schools brought in significant media revenue and when they left, they brought that revenue to the SEC. When you agree to a grant of rights, you're saying, I don't want my media revenue, I'm giving it to the conference.

The conference then redistributes that revenue to its members, which it now does equally, instead of based on TV appearances like it used to.

Teams can earn more money with their third-tier media rights, which schools retain. But now, once this new deal is signed into place, if a team wanted to leave for a new league, it would have to sacrifice its media revenue for 13 years. Obviously, that makes no one attractive to a new league.

Oklahoma president David Boren famously called them "handcuffs" and it's pretty true, even if it's not the most harmonious of mental images. What it does is establish stability for the league.

Patrick in Iowa City, Iowa, wrote: I have a question that maybe you can answer about the new helmet rule. At some point I read that any time a helmet comes off the play is immediately blown dead. I'm hoping this isn't going to happen, but what's to stop a frustrated defender from removing his own helmet after being beaten by a running back who's going to run for a touchdown? Will that stop the play right where it is or would they allow what they believe would be the completion of the run?

DU: No, if the scenario you're talking about happens, the defender is basically down and can't keep going in the play. If he does, it's a 15-yard penalty. Now, if a ballcarrier's helmet came off, then yes, the play is blown dead.

If a lineman engaged with an offensive lineman's helmet comes off, he can keep going, but if the QB steps up in the pocket he has to stop.

Yes, that rule is just as stupid as it sounds. It goes against any player's instinct. A coach is going to have a hard time getting mad at his player for getting flagged for a penalty like that, so officials can expect an earful if they flag that, even though the nine-man panel who voted that rule into place should be getting the brunt of the criticism.

Ryan in Houston, Texas, wrote: You better get your excuses ready for your claim at how bad Texas Tech is going to be this year, here's a few I have prepared..."Well with a defense as bad as they have had the past couple years, I just felt playing the odds made the most sense""If you thought Texas Tech was going to be this good in the preseason, you were in the minority""I knew Doege would be good, as I claimed, but this good?""When I made those preseason ballets, I was unaware of Eric Stephens status as I had not made it out to Lubbock to see how he was holding up, who knew he would be back to form""Tuberville stepped his game up, when he needed to most, and he proved that for the 1st season with his players what he preaches works"Ub's, you should save these...

DU: I feel you on this, Tech fans. It's unfamiliar to be picked this low. Last year didn't leave anybody happy. At the same time, let's not act like I'm the only one who thinks this. For what it's worth, I picked Tech to go 5-7 and finish eighth in the league. The media that cover the league voted and Tech finished ninth in that poll. By that logic, I'm higher than most on the Red Raiders. I still think Tech has a good shot to surprise and win 7-8 games, but I'm not going to pick it. It doesn't mean my picks are ironclad, and it doesn't mean I have some mysterious vendetta against Tech. The truth: Tech hasn't been very good lately and isn't very deep. It's got to do something to convince me otherwise. Better start this year.

Kyle in Kansas City: Ubbs -- My cyclones sneaked into a bowl game last year with the W over the pokes. What most people don't remember is that in 5 of our 6 wins, ISU either trailed or was tied with our opponent in the 4th quarter. I haven't seen much discussion on this with regards to the Cyclone's chances to get back to a bowl. Cause for concern? Or is this a positive knowing we have some ability to win close games?

DU: Very interesting stat, Kyle, and you make me feel a little more confident about picking the Clones to win just four games this year. Steele Jantz was unbelievable in the fourth quarter of those first three games last year, but if he doesn't make a couple throws, those games could have gone much, much differently.

I hadn't really seen that stat discussed very often. Jantz engineered fourth quarter comebacks to start the season against Northern Iowa, Connecticut and Iowa. Jared Barnett helped the comeback against Oklahoma State, but I'm more liable to credit that game to the defense. He made some plays to push a late win over Kansas. Texas Tech was the only team Iowa State soundly beat last season.

In a deep Big 12, that doesn't bode well for this season. There's ton of focus on the Oklahoma State game, but it's amazing how many things could have fallen differently and cost Iowa State its bowl bid.

Cale Myers in Kingfisher, Okla., wrote: Ricky Williams was the 1998 Heisman trophy winner for TEXAS. It says he was the last 1,000 rusher for Texas Tech... The numbers are not right.

Wade in Stillwater, Okla., wrote: I'm sure you've already realized that you have Ricky Williams in his Heisman year as Tech's last 1,000 yd rusher! My UT-grad brother wouldn't appreciate it.

DU: Oh, angry, misguided emails. You make me cry tears of both sadness and laughter.

OSU fan in Texas wrote: Problem: to my knowledge, exactly ZERO tv providers in the entire state of Texas carry the Pac12 Network. Also to my knowledge, this is the ONLY network airing OSU AZ. Do you foresee this getting worked out somehow? Will ESPN stream this game live online? Also, will ANY Texas residents from Pac12 schools be able to watch their teams this season?

DU: Well, that's not fully accurate. I use TimeWarner Cable, and the Pac-12 Network appeared on my guide when the channel launched. I've watched a little bit of the programming. It's pretty good so far. ESPN doesn't own the rights to the game, so we won't be streaming it. The deal with DirecTV is still being hammered out as the season gets closer, but it's definitely on TimeWarner. The network has deals with some smaller cable providers, but it also has deals with Comcast and Cox Cable, if you have access to that.
I saw colleague Heather Dinich's look at the longest 1,000-yard rusher droughts in the ACC earlier this week, and got curious: What about the Big 12 droughts?

No big surprise, Texas Tech leads the way by a long, long time.

Florida State has the nation's longest 1,000-yard rusher drought (Warrick Dunn, 1996), but Tech is only two years behind.

The Big 12 had just three 1,000-yard rushers last year among teams that return for 2012, but every other team in the Big 12 has had at least one 1,000-yard rusher since 2007.

The last team to have two 1,000-yard rushers? Oklahoma's record-setting offense in 2008, which scored more points than anyone in college football history. DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown both topped quadruple digits.

The Big 12 is known for its passing acumen, and perhaps no one is synonymous with that than Texas Tech. Last year, Eric Stephens was well on his way to a 1,000-yard season before dislocating his knee, among other damage.

Here's how long each team's drought has been:

No drought
  • Baylor: Terrance Ganaway, 2011: 1,547 yards
  • Oklahoma State: Joseph Randle, 2011: 1,216 yards
  • Kansas State: Collin Klein, 2011: 1,141 yards

One year

  • Oklahoma: DeMarco Murray, 2010: 1,224 yards
  • TCU: Ed Wesley, 2010: 1,078 yards

Two years

  • West Virginia: Noel Devine, 2009: 1,465 yards
  • Iowa State: Alexander Robinson, 2009: 1,193 yards

Four years

  • Texas: Jamaal Charles, 2007: 1,619 yards
  • Kansas: Brandon McAnderson, 2007: 1,135 yards
13 years

  • Texas Tech: Ricky Williams, 1998: 1,582 yards

 

Fans agree: Vince Young is No. 1

June, 12, 2012
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Last week, we put Barry Sanders at the top of our list of the greatest individual seasons ever, but what about in the Big 12 era?

Sanders' dominance came all the way back in 1988, eight years before the Big 12 began competition.

What did fans think was the greatest Big 12 season ever? It wasn't even close.

Vince Young's 2005 campaign blew away the competition, taking home 45 percent of the vote, three times its closest competition.

Young was the first player in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards, and was the only player on our list to lead a Big 12 team to the national title.

Adrian Peterson's 2004 season grabbed 15 percent of the vote, tying Ricky Williams' 1998 season, which checked in at No. 3 on our list of the greatest college football seasons of the past 50 years.

Sam Bradford's record-breaking 2008 season was fourth with 13 percent of the vote after quarterbacking Oklahoma to the most points of any offense in the history of college football, as well as a national title game appearance.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh grabbed only 12 percent of the vote to come in fifth place among the five candidates after a season as the Huskers' resident wrecking ball, collecting the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy, AP Player of the Year and earning an invitation to the Heisman ceremony.

Did the fans get this one right?

For all the bad blood spilled upon Nebraska's exit from the Big 12 and farewell tour throughout the 2010 season, Texas coach Mack Brown couldn't stop citing his most memorable interaction with the Huskers.

Ricky Williams walked into Memorial Stadium and into the Sea of Red, and walked out with an upset win and 150 yards rushing. The Huskers' invincibility -- also known as a 47-game home winning streak -- was gone. Nebraska fans knew what they had just seen, but had to show their respect. They chanted more than just Williams' first name, which became the name by which most remember him.

[+] EnlargeRicky Williams
AP Photo/Eric GayDuring Ricky Williams' record-breaking 1998 season, among his most memorable runs was this 60-yarder for a touchdown against rival Texas A&M.
They resorted to another name.

"Heis-man! Heis-man! Heis-man!" they chanted.

They were right. Ricky took home sports' most prestigious award that season, and takes the No. 3 spot on our list of the greatest individual seasons of the past 50 years of college football. Ricky rumbled his way to 2,124 yards that season, averaging just under 200 yards a game, and became the first player in NCAA history to top 300 yards twice in a single season. He scored 29 rushing touchdowns, setting a Big 12 record that still stands.

Williams was an eccentric personality off the field, but commanded respect on it. Never was that command more evident than during the 1998 season when he helped the burnt orange start Brown's tenure off in memorable fashion. Perhaps no run was more memorable than Williams' 60-yard touchdown run in the rivalry win against Texas A&M.

He needed just 11 yards to set the NCAA career rushing record, but Williams broke three tackles and did it in style, providing the nation with his "Heisman moment" and joining Earl Campbell as the second Heisman winner in Texas history.

Late in the first quarter, Williams spun through a pair of blocks by tackle Leonard Davis and guard Roger Roesler, using a couple more blocks before sprinting down the left sideline and running through safety Rich Coady at the Aggies' 12-yard line. He broke one more tackle as he reached the end zone, and the game was briefly stopped to recognize Williams' new spot in the record books.

"I had a smile on my face after I broke that one tackle. I knew I had broken the record," Williams told reporters after the game.

He also collected the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and became the first two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award.

Williams left Texas with one of the most memorable careers in the history of the game, rushing for 1,000 yards in all four seasons in Austin. None was greater than his last, though, and only two seasons in the past 50 years were better than Williams' 1998 campaign.

"It's been a special year because of Ricky Williams. He is the best player I have ever seen. I think he is one of the best, if not the best college football player ever," Brown said of Williams.
Earlier this week, I unveiled my list. But did I get it right? I also had a list of seasons that just missed the best ever.

For now, though, let's revisit that top five. I put Vince Young's 2005 season at the top, but does it belong there? He was the first player in NCAA history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, and he capped it off with a national title.

SportsNation

Which season was best?

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In that national title game, he threw for 267 yards and ran for 200 yards to beat USC, a team considered one of the best ever before Young took it down.

But what about the House of Spears? Ndamukong Suh singlehandedly demolished Texas' offense in the 2009 Big 12 championship game, but was undone by a late field goal and a second added to the clock. Still, he collected just about every possible award for a defensive tackle, and crashed the Heisman ceremony despite being both a defender and an interior lineman. That's unbelievable.

Did Ricky deserve a spot at No. 1? Williams' career-long excellence culminated in a Heisman in 1998 and a 2,000-yard season, one of just eight players in college football history to top the mark. He also walked into the Sea of Red and continued Texas' inexplicable dominance over Nebraska, ending the Huskers' 47-game home winning streak. That's not very nice for the new conference mates. (I bet that relationship ended badly.)

All Sam Bradford did was quarterback the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football and throw for 50 touchdowns. Is that the best performance in Big 12 history? You could make the case. Do it by voting.

Adrian Peterson demolished the idea that a freshman couldn't be the best player in the country, even if he wasn't given a Heisman for his efforts. Along with Suh, he makes two players on this list completely robbed of a Heisman. Young was a third, but to a much lesser level. Was Peterson's first year the best in Big 12 history?

Vote in our poll.

Think another season was the best? Tell me here, or tell us your favorite memories from the seasons we've already mentioned.
This week, ESPN's "College Football Live" is breaking down the top 50 individual seasons of the past 50 years of college football. We couldn't leave that alone here on the conference blogs, so we're naming the league's top five individual seasons.

The Big 12 is the youngest major league, so I'll keep this list to seasons that occurred in the actual Big 12. That means the season had to come during 1996 or later. Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado are all in the mix on this list. TCU and West Virginia are not.

This was really, really difficult. I'll be polling the rest of you to pitch your best seasons ever later on this week, but here's my top five for now.

1. Vince Young, QB, Texas, 2005

Young takes home this award, breaking a tough set of ties, for carrying his team to a national title. No player outside the SEC has earned a ring since Young knocked off USC (aka The Greatest Team Ever) on the Trojans' home turf in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. He completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 3,036 yards with 26 touchdowns. He also added 1,050 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns, none bigger than his 8-yard touchdown on fourth-and-5 to beat the Trojans and send Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush home without any championship hardware. Young finished that game with an absurd 267 yards passing and 200 yards rushing, his second game of the season with at least 200 yards of each.

2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska, 2009

No defensive player was more destructive during his time on the field. Just ask Colt McCoy. Suh is the most dominant defensive player in the history of the Big 12, and let's just get this out of the way: He should have won the Heisman Trophy in 2009. Instead, Mark Ingram earned Alabama's first Heisman Trophy. Suh, whose name means "House of Spears," became the first defensive player to ever earn the AP Player of the Year honors and became the first defensive tackle invited to the Heisman ceremony since Warren Sapp in 1994. He finished fourth in the voting, but he didn't end the season empty-handed. Anything but. He had 85 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 10 pass breakups and an interception that changed a season-defining, comeback win at Missouri. For his efforts, he took home the Lombardi Award, the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award and was a finalist for the Walter Camp Award and Lott Trophy.

3. Ricky Williams, RB, Texas, 1998

Ricky ran and ran and ran. He finished his senior season with 2,124 yards, an average of just under 200 yards a game, becoming the eighth player in NCAA history to top 2,000 yards in a single season. He had two 300-yard rushing games (an NCAA record) and memorably set the NCAA career record for rushing that season with a long touchdown run against Texas A&M. That season, he earned the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Award and became the first two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award. Over a decade later, Texas coach Mack Brown still talks about the time Ricky ran for 150 yards to upset No. 7 Nebraska 20-16 and break the Huskers' 47-game home winning streak. Nebraska fans responded by chanting "Heisman" as Williams walked off the field.

4. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 2008

Bradford broke out as a sophomore in 2008 and took home just about every piece of hardware imaginable. He threw for 4,720 yards and an absurd 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, while completing 328 of 483 passes (67.9 percent). For his work, he earned the Heisman Trophy (Oklahoma's fifth winner), the Davey O'Brien Award and the Sammy Baugh Trophy. Oklahoma won the Big 12 and staked its claim as the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football. The Sooners reached the national title that season but lost to Tim Tebow's Florida Gators.

5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma, 2004

Can you imagine a true freshman leading the nation in rushing and carries, breaking NCAA freshman rushing records along the way, and being named a unanimous All-American. Well, it happened not too long ago. The latter seasons of Peterson's career were marred by injury, but Peterson broke the mold of college football in his first year on the field, steamrolling opponents and finishing second in the Heisman voting as a true freshman back in 2004, which was unthinkable. Back then a sophomore had never even won the greatest individual award in sports. He rushed for 1,860 yards and 15 touchdowns, carrying the Sooners to the national title game. He ran for 100 yards in nine consecutive games and 11 times as a true freshman, both NCAA records. He was also the first freshman finalist for the Doak Walker Award.
AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s odd, 17 years after he arrived, that Ricky Williams should be back again and this time inanimate, cast in bronze.

He had, after all, always been the ever-changing athlete. Ricky was not one who could be caught in a pose much less by his opponents. Instead Ricky was a subject tough to get a grip on. The dreads. The visor. The disappearance. The dress. Ricky was all those images. What he wasn’t and never will be is someone who can be captured by a single image or even an 8-foot, 1000-pound statue.

That’s not Ricky. Ricky evolves.

[+] EnlargeRicky Williams
AP Photo/Michael ThomasRunning back Ricky Williams' statue sits next to Texas' other Heisman winner, Earl Campbell.
It seems everything these days, from Nick Saban to Tim Tebow’s teary speech after an LSU loss, has to be memorialized. Texas decided Ricky should be. He'll be the next to have his likeness placed outside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Right there next to Earl.

To be sure it’s a tribute and honor. Over the top? Sure, but college football must have its heroes. And Ricky, one of only two Heisman winners in Texas history, is the Longhorns.

“It was so funny … I had to take [Williams] down to the running backs meeting. They were just in awe,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “Just bringing a rock star in and walking him into the running back room. They were sitting up front and I walked in and said, 'This is Ricky Williams.’ They couldn't move. They just sat there. They didn't say hello. They didn't shake his hand.”

Fourteen years removed from his playing days at Texas, and this is the response Ricky still elicits from people in and around the program. Maybe that is why the statue seems premature. Ricky, who briefly held the NCAA Division I-A career rushing record, is still a living breathing entity, still changing, still affecting people.

Even to Ricky, the statue seems a tad strange.

“It's going to be funny being a student walking past my statue,” Williams said.

Not that he is going to mind it too terribly much.

“I'm going to walk by it every day,” he joked.

Who wouldn’t?

On the other hand who, at age 35, with money and opportunity who said “I wake up and I say to myself, 'What grand and glorious adventure do I want to do today,” would decide that the adventure would be to go back to school?

Ricky would.

“I want to get a “T” ring,” Williams said. “It’s one of the things I wanted to do a long time ago.”

Despite wandering away from what the public perceived his goals should have been on the football field, Ricky is actually all about goals. Setting them and meeting them. It’s how he came to be at Texas. He wanted to have an impact on a program. He wanted to be a part of something.

In the process he became something.

“I remember when he broke the record, we knew he was going to do it in the Texas A&M game, we just didn’t know how he was going to do it,” ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger, who called the game in 1998, said during the statue ceremony.

He should have known. Musburger had been watching Ricky for more than three years. By that time it was clear that nothing Ricky ever did was understated or subtle. So, when he went through three tackles for 60 yards and into the end zone, it should not have been shock to anyone.

Those are the types of memories David Demming has attempted to evoke with this statue. A Texas fan can now look at this piece of art and remember what Ricky did in those four years.

The fans gets a glimpse at the dreads -- not nearly as long as they would be, and the player -- really at the peak of what he would be -- and they are able to remember a few days and plays from the falls of the late 90s.

But not even Ricky believes this statue resembles who he is, or much less, who he might become now that football is over.

“Close enough,” he said.

Not really. Not at all.
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AUSTIN, Texas -- These days, there's lots of hype setting up in Texas' backfield.

Malcolm Brown arrived in Austin a year ago as the nation's No. 2 running back. At 215 pounds, he brought hope the days of power running were back in burnt orange.

There's no parade scheduled (yet?) for Johnathan Gray's arrival this summer, but the nation's No. 1 running back signed on with the Longhorns in February.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesLonghorns back Joe Bergeron has trimmed the fat this offseason.
With Brown, the two form the most highly recruited duo of backs in the country. Come fall, neither may be the starter.

That job could go to Joe Bergeron.

"He's really good. He's big. He's strong. He can catch," said Longhorns coach Mack Brown.

Don't see Bergeron's name among the nation's elite that flock to Texas every February? No worries. You may see it very often very soon.

The 241-pound power runner was the nation's No. 1 fullback in the same class as Malcolm Brown, but didn't rank in the top 75 prospects in his own state.

He stepped into Texas' crowded backfield as a true freshman and finished second on the team in carries and yardage behind Brown, and competition between the two for the starting job is heating up in the spring.

"His weight has fluctuated between 238 and 241, and he hasn't lost one ounce of speed. And some of his high school teammates came to one of the junior days and saw him and said, 'My gosh, he looks like he's really lost weight.'" Mack Brown said. "I walked over and asked him. And he said, 'I'm 241. I've actually gained weight.' But he's lost body fat. He's in great shape."

Getting in shape and staying there was Brown's chief concern for both of his young backs this spring, and not just in trimming body fat.

Both struggled with injuries throughout their first seasons on the field, and those strains continued in offseason conditioning workout, reigniting concerns.

But during the spring, both have proved they can take the punishment required as running backs in Texas' offense and stay on the field.

"To play and be a great player, you've got to stay healthy. It's a harsh thing to say, but if you're a guy who stays hurt and can't be on the field consistently, then you'll never be a great player," Brown said. "One of the things that Malcolm and Joe needed to accomplish this spring, and they've done it so far, is make sure that they took care of their bodies and they stretch properly and they eat properly and they get well and can stay well, because it's such a bruising position that we're going to have enough guys next year we can rotate guys and we can keep them out there just a limited amount of time and keep them fresh."

Brown noted that past stars like Cedric Benson, Jamaal Charles and Heisman winner Ricky Williams were constantly healthy.

Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Gray will get their touches come fall, but Bergeron carried the ball 100 fewer times than Brown did last season.

Those numbers could even out if Bergeron keeps at his current pace and if, like Benson, Charles and Williams, he stays healthy.

"Cedric Benson against Michigan, the first play of the game, hyperextended his knee and the doctor said I'm not sure I would play if I was you because you're a first-round draft choice. He said: Tape it up, I'm going to play. He went back in and played every play," Mack Brown said. "That's the attitude we want to get on this football team. We've had too many guys in my estimation hurt. Not talking about those two. But in general. We've had too many guys that will miss a game or miss a practice. So we're putting a tremendous amount of emphasis on who is out there every day, who is consistent every day, who gets ready to practice every day and who is excited about playing every day."
I'm thinkin' of something orange. Something orange. Give up? It's an orange.

Setting the stage for the Cotton Bowl

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
10:00
AM ET
Monday night's Fiesta Bowl was fun, but it's time to move on.

We'll have more coverage of the Cotton Bowl as the week progresses, and I'll be there, but here's a few fun facts via ESPN Stats & Information to get you started.

No. 6 Arkansas and No. 8 Kansas State will go head to head on Friday night in Cowboys Stadium.
  • The BCS National Championship Game and Fiesta Bowl are the only other games featuring teams with single-digit rankings.
  • Arkansas is 3-0 in Cowboys Stadium, with all three wins coming over Texas A&M. The Aggies, by the way, are 0-4 in the stadium.
  • Kansas State is plus-13 in turnover margin, which ranks sixth nationally.
  • This year, Arkansas strung together consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89.
  • Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has converted 32 first downs by rush, more than any player in the FBS.
  • He's thrown 12 touchdown passes and ran for 26 scores, accounting for 84.4 percent of his team's touchdowns. That's the highest percentage of any player in the FBS, just ahead of USC's Matt Barkley.
  • With one more touchdown, Klein will tie Navy's Ricky Dobbs at 27 for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in FBS history. He's one shy of Ricky Williams' Big 12 record, too.
  • He's first nationally in rushing TDs from inside two yards (14), inside five yards (21) and inside 10 yards (23).
  • Kansas State ranks fourth in the Big 12 by allowing just 33 plays longer than 25 yards this season, but 11 came in losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
  • K-State has scored a touchdown in 29-of-33 goal-to-go situations this season. That percentage (87.9) is 13th-highest nationally.

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